Utopia at the Border: Programme and Photos

We’re delighted to share with you the programme from the recent Utopia at the Border symposium at the University of Regensburg: the fourth of our six symposia exploring utopianism and thinking-about-the-future.

Borders have received little consideration from within utopian studies, whilst there is an understandable reticence among many of those who study (and struggle against) borders to think in terms of utopia. As an initial consideration of what utopia(nism) might have to offer those working with/against borders; and how theorizing the border might enhance utopian studies we were extremely pleased with the outcome of the symposium and have decided to dedicate one of our four special Open Library of Humanities special issues to the theme of ‘Utopia at the Border’. This will contain papers from the symposium, but if you’d be interested in contributing something please do get in touch.

The below photographs were taken by Utopia at the Border participant Henry Daniel, to whom we are extremely grateful.

The call for contributions for our next symposium, to be held at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA, will be published in mid November. Watch this space!

Utopia at the Border: Call for Contributions

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We’re delighted to announce the call for contributions for the network’s fourth symposium, which will interrogate the relationship between utopia(nism) and borders. Papers, interventions, workshops, performances or exhibits from any discipline (academic or otherwise) are welcome. The symposium will be free to attend and a number of bursaries are available. The full call is below and is available here [pdf]. A large print version is here [pdf].

The fourth symposium of the Imaginaries of the Future Research Network
University of Regensburg, 20-22nd September 2016

‘There was a wall. It did not look important…’ – Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed

‘[We seek]…a world without borders, where no one is prevented from moving because of where you were born, or because of race, class or economic resources…’ – No Borders UK

‘We resolve…to strengthen control over our territories and to not permit the entry of any government functionary nor of a single transnational corporation.’ – The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador

Borders are a key feature of our present. Whether national, regional, physical, electronic, cognitive, performative or cultural, they unevenly regulate the movement of bodies, ideas, objects, capital and bytes. Geopolitical borders are frequently sites of domination, but they may also provide solace for oppressed groups, some of whom actively call for or construct borders so they might protect their ways of living and advance their struggles. Conceptual borders allow us to grasp a complex world, but may inhibit understanding, communication and change. Temporal borders, meanwhile, seek to fix history into discrete categories of past, present and future.

Yet borders are not permanent. They remain a key site of contestation and struggle; and must continually be remade through technology, performance and often violence. And border crossings transform subjects, the space-times they leave, and the space-times they enter; as well as borders themselves. This means that utopianism – praxis that seeks to transform space and time – has much to offer contemporary ways of relating to borders. It can educate our desire for alternatives, and by showing us these alternatives – in fiction, theory or practice – estrange us from borders as they currently exist. The need for utopian rethinking and contestation of borders strikes us as particularly urgent given the current refugee crisis in Europe, and the continued role of borders in neocolonial dispossession around the world. Yet whilst a utopian lens may have much to offer the thinking and practice of borders this does not mean that the utopian is without borders of its own. Indeed, despite a turn to ‘the horizon’ and process in recent utopian theory, borders play a key role in many fictional utopias and dystopias; in ‘real world’ utopian communities; and in definitions of utopia itself.

Utopia at the Border aims to consider the relationship between borders and the utopian. Borders are to be critically examined even as participants question their own relationships to borders through their work and travel. We would also like to think through what is gained and lost by extending the notion of borders beyond the geopolitical. We welcome papers of up to 20 minutes and are open to artistic or activist contributions; as well as to interventions that fall between or go beyond such boundaries. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this informally before submitting a proposal, or if you would like to take up more than 20 minutes.  A special issue of the Open Library of the Humanities journal will be produced drawing on presentations from the symposium. This will form part of the Imaginaries of the Future publication series.

Papers may engage with one or more of the following aspects of borders, although this is by no means an exhaustive list:

The borders of utopia and dystopia

  • Borders in utopian and dystopian texts
  • The borders of utopian communities
  • Anti-borders utopianism in theory, fiction and practice

Colonialism, decolonization, Indigeneity and borders

  • Colonial border construction and praxis
  • Reservations
  • Indigenous borders
  • New and future borders: Antarctica, under the sea, extraterrestrial?

(Anti-)border technologies and practices

  • Passports
  • Walls, fences, barricades
  • Raids, detention and deportation
  • Metrics and biometrics
  • Anti-borders activism

(Refusing) temporal borders

  • The division of time into past, present and future
  • Spatial borders as temporal borders
  • Spatial history
  • The ‘not-yet’, the immanent, the prefigurative

Borders, identity and the body

  • Borders, race and racialization
  • Non-conforming bodies at the border
  • Affect at the border
  • Mestiza and cross-border identities

Public space, the commons and enclosure

  • Borders and the commons
  • Gated communities
  • Border technologies in urban space
  • Vertical borders
  • Barricades

Cross border (non-) communication

  • Online borders
  • Disciplinary and conceptual borders
  • Censorship and gate-keeping
  • Communication technologies and border activism

More-than-human/non-human borders

  • Non-humans at the border
  • Finance, goods and trade
  • Wilderness, nature and ecology
  • Chemical, biological and physical borders/boundaries

Art of the border; art at the border; art against the border

  • The architecture and aesthetics of (former) border crossings
  • Artistic performance and representation of/at borders, their crossings and their refusals
  • Passport design

Beyond borders

  • Non-state space; the state of exception
  • Necropolitics and the border
  • Exile and statelessness
  • International waters

Struggles with and against borders

  • Fortress Europe and the migrant crisis
  • Border struggles and crossings in history, religion and myth
  • Smuggling

Borders and labour

  • Freedom of movement and ‘the career’
  • Borders and divisions of labour
  • University staff as border agents

There is no fee to attend the symposium. Lunches and refreshments will be provided during the days of the symposium.

Five bursaries – two of up to £1,000, and three of up to £350 – will be awarded through open competition to individuals who wish to contribute to the symposium. These can be used to cover food, travel and accommodation costs, but can only be reclaimed after the symposium upon production of receipts. The larger bursaries are intended for applicants traveling a significant distance to attend the symposium. We welcome submissions from all academic career stages, as well as from non academics. Bursary recipients will be expected to contribute a piece of writing and/or media for the Network blog. If you would like to apply for a bursary please clearly state this with your proposal, and state whether you are applying for up to £350 or up to £1,000. Please also attach a CV (if a CV is not appropriate to convey the experiences you would draw on in presenting, please email david.bell@ncl.ac.uk before applying).

Please send proposals (up to 300 words) to nathaniel.coleman@ncl.ac.uk, david.bell@ncl.ac.uk and kenneth.hanshew@sprachlit.uni-regensburg.de. Please indicate in your email if you would be interested in contributing to the special journal issue, which would have a deadline in spring 2017. The deadline for proposals is midnight (BST) on Sunday June 12th

If you have any questions about this call please email david.bell@ncl.ac.uk.



CFP: POLITICS AND POETICS 3rd Symposium of the Leverhulme research network

Detail from sculpture, Queens University Belfast.

Credit: Rossographer. CC-BY-SA 2.0 http://www.geograph.ie/photo/1555050

The third symposium of the Imaginaries of the Future network will be at Queen’s University Belfast UK from 19-21 January 2016.

Our theme is “Politics and Poetics”.

The call for participants is available here in Word and pdf formats.

Second Symposium: “In the Regions of Utopia”. Call now open!

Town Moor, Newcastle (Mick Garratt) / CC BY-SA 2.0

The second symposium of the Imaginaries of the Future network will be in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK from 28-30 June 2015.

Our theme is “In the Regions of Utopia”.

The call for participants is available here in pdf and Word formats

UPDATE: Date on CfP now corrected to match this page.

Imaginaries of the Future: Historicising the Present

Imaginaries of the Future: Historicising the Present is a network of scholars from across the arts and humanities, which is supported by a International Research Network grant from the Leverhulme Trust from September 2014-August 2017.


Our first symposium is scheduled to take place in Montreal on 20-22 October 2014.  The Call for Participants is now available in pdf and Word format. DEADLINE: 1 September 2014 at 22.00 BST (17.00 EST).